89ºF

Why are canals in Cocoa Beach tomato-soup red? Researchers blame algae

UF researchers say red water is not toxic

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Algae is being blamed for the bright red tint this week in canal waters near downtown Cocoa Beach. 

University of Florida researchers concluded the red algae is not toxic, but neighbors near Minuteman Causeway said they're skeptical because fish are dying. 

Rising temperatures and an overabundance of nutrients are creating another deadly, in this case, "bloody" combination for the Indian River Lagoon.

"It's sad. Clearly, fish are dying. It's right in front of us," Janet Hosmer said.

The 40-year Cocoa Beach resident said she's watched the canals near downtown go from clear to murky and from blue to red.

"Each year it's gotten worse and worse. It's disgusting," she said.

Ed Garland with the St. Johns River Water Management District said when the red algae blooms out, it deprives oxygen just like brown tide.

Scientists blamed brown tide for the 2016 Indian River Lagoon fish kill, the largest on record.

Smaller fish kills have happened in the lagoon as well in the past two years.

"There's not a lot of circulation in that area of the lagoon. It's sort of like a dead-end street," Garland said of the red canals. "We've seen all the colors of the rainbow over the years but there's always been blooms in the lagoon."

As county leaders debate more ideas to clean the lagoon -- and collect tax dollars -- neighbors want results and they want them now.

"Open the locks, flush out our systems," Hosmer suggested. "We desperately need to take care of our environment."


About the Author: